AskDefine | Define faience

Dictionary Definition

faience n : glazed earthenware decorated with opaque colors

User Contributed Dictionary



Faience is named after the place name Faenza, Italy, where it was made in the 16th century.


  1. A type of tin-glazed earthenware ceramic.


Extensive Definition

For the architectural material, see Glazed architectural terra-cotta. For the ceramics of Ancient Egypt and the Indus Valley, see Egyptian faience
Faience or faïence is the conventional name in English for fine tin-glazed pottery on a delicate pale buff body. The invention of a pottery glaze suitable for painted decoration, by the addition of an oxide of tin to the slip of a lead glaze, was a major advance in the history of pottery. The invention seems to have been made in Iran or the Middle East before the ninth century, and there have even been records of the invention as far back as 1316 B.C.E as Faience ingots have been found on the Uluburun Shipwreck. These discoveries were made in Knossos, Crete in the form of foot-tall Snake Goddess statuettes. A kiln capable of producing temperatures exceeding 1000°C was required to achieve this result (see pottery), the result of millennia of refined pottery-making traditions.
Technically, lead-glazed earthenware, such as the French sixteenth-century Saint-Porchaire ware, does not properly qualify as faience, but the distinction is not usually maintained.


Ancient "faience"

Main article Egyptian faience.
The term "faience" has been extended to include finely glazed ceramic beads found in Egypt as early as 4000 BC and at sites in the Indus Valley Civilization. Examples of ancient faience are also found in Minoan Crete, which was likely influenced by Egyptian culture. Faience material, for instance, has been recovered from the Knossos archaeological site.

Faience in the Western Mediterranean

The Moors brought the technique of tin-glazed earthenware to Al-Andalus, where the art of metallic glazes was perfected. From Andalusia it was exported, either directly or via the Balearic Islands to Italy. In Italy, locally produced tin-glazed earthenwares, initiated in the fourteenth century, reached a peak in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, represented by the Italian faience called Majolica. The name faience is simply the French name for Faenza, in the Romagna near Ravenna, Italy, where a painted majolica ware on a clean, opaque pure-white ground, was produced for export as early as the fifteenth century.
"Majolica" (pronounced and also spelled "maiolica") is a garbled version of "Maiorica", for the island of Majorca, which was a transshipping point for refined tin-glazed earthenwares shipped to Italy from the kingdom of Aragon in Spain at the close of the Middle Ages. This type of Spanish pottery owed much to its Moorish inheritance.

French and northern European faïence

The first northerners to imitate the tin-glazed earthenwares being imported from Italy were the Dutch. Delftware is a kind of faience, made at potteries round Delft in Holland, characteristically decorated in blue on white, in imitation of the blue and white porcelain that was imported from China in the early sixteenth century, but it quickly developed its own recognisably Dutch décor.
"English Deltware" produced in Lambeth, London, on the south bank of the Thames, and at other centers from the late sixteenth century, provided apothecaries with jars for wet and dry drugs. Many of the early potters in London were Flemish. By about 1600, blue-and-white wares were produced, labelling the contents within decorative borders. The production was slowly superseded in the second half of the eighteenth century with the introduction of cheap creamware.
Dutch potters in northern (and Protestant) Germany established German centres of faience: the first manufactories in Germany were opened at Hanau (1661) and Heusenstamm (1662), soon moved to nearby Frankfurt-am-Main.
In the course of the later 18th century, cheap porcelain took over the market for refined faience; in the early 19th century, fine stoneware—fired so hot that the unglazed body vitrifies—closed the last of the traditional makers' ateliers even for beer steins. At the low end of the market, local manufactories continued to supply regional markets with coarse and simple wares.

Faïence revival

In the 1870s, the Aesthetic movement, notably in Britain, rediscovered the robust charm of faience, and the large porcelain manufactories marketed revived faience, such as the "Majolica ware" of Minton and of Wedgwood.
Many centres of traditional manufacture are recognized, even some individual ateliers. A partial list follows.

Types of faience





faience in Czech: Fajáns
faience in German: Fayence
faience in Esperanto: Fajenco
faience in French: Faïence
faience in Italian: Faience
faience in Luxembourgish: Faïence
faience in Dutch: Faience (aardewerk)
faience in Norwegian: Fajanse
faience in Norwegian Nynorsk: Fajanse
faience in Polish: Fajans
faience in Portuguese: Faiança
faience in Russian: Фаянс
faience in Finnish: Fajanssi
faience in Swedish: Fajans
faience in Ukrainian: Фаянс
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